I was born in the year J.M. Coetzee published his third novel, Waiting for the Barbarians. My mother read this dark, disturbing novel with its multiple scenes of torture as she breastfed me at night, while my older sister was asleep and the house was quiet. It was 1980. The apartheid government had declared a State of Emergency in the face of growing internal revolt, and my parents were thinking of leaving South Africa again...
For Ceridwen Dovey, J.M. Coetzee 'has always been there, an unseen but strongly felt presence in our small family drama'. As a child, she observed with fascination her mother's immersion in Coetzee's writing as she worked on what would become the first critical study of his early novels. Even now, as a writer herself, Ceridwen's relationship with Coetzee's books is still mediated by her mother's readings of them: to get to him, she must first step through her mother's formidable mind. With tenderness and insight, Ceridwen draws on this personal history to explore the Nobel Prize-winner's work - how his books 'do theory' on themselves - while also tracing the intellectual heritage that has been passed from mother to daughter.
About the Writers on Writers Series
Some of Australia’s most acclaimed writers will feature in a groundbreaking collaboration between independent publisher Black Inc., the University of Melbourne and the State Library of Victoria. In a series of six short books, each author will reflect on another Australian writer who has inspired and influenced them.